Author’s Forum Hosted By GHS Students Discusses Need For Diversity In Literature

Hosted by four Granada High School (GHS) seniors, an author’s forum sponsored by Towne Center Books was held from 2:00 pm to 4:00 pm on Feb. 10, 2021. The conference took place over Zoom and featured five Bay Area authors who talked about their experiences with racial representation, and a lack thereof, in literature.

Hosted by four Granada High School (GHS) seniors, an author’s forum sponsored by Towne Center Books was held from 2:00 pm to 4:00 pm on Feb. 10, 2021. The conference took place over Zoom and featured five Bay Area authors who talked about their experiences with racial representation, and a lack thereof, in literature.

The seniors, Miraya Choudhury, Sian Salazar, Taylor Melton, and Meena Mynampati, acted as moderators and asked questions that the audience submitted in a Q&A feature. They also shared graphic materials that helped show the large lack of representation for black, indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) authors, LGBTQIA+ authors, and disabled authors compared to white authors.

According to the conference’s flyer, the students had been working to increase the cultural variety in their own school and said that their goal was to discuss the importance of a diverse education.

“We have spent the past 6 months advocating for more diversity in literature, starting with the English curriculum at our own high school,” their flyer said. 

The five authors participating in the conference were Angela Dalton, Alex Giardino, Innosanto Nagara, Mae Respicio, and Meera Sriram. Each author answered questions posed by the audience and asked by the moderators. They also told personal stories about what inspired them to write their stories and why they thought it was important for children to be able to connect with the characters they read about.

Many of the authors shared their experiences with self-publishing and said that they’ve noticed that authors lose a lot of creative control with traditional modes of publishing. The authors said they want their audience to understand that as consumers, it’s important to know where products are coming from and that a lot of the traditional publishing process is skewed unfairly against BIPOC authors, which has caused a lack of representation for many cultures. 

The authors also said they’ve noticed that BIPOC stories have come and gone as trends, which they believe needs to change, as they think it is better to integrate diverse characters into regular settings on top of celebrating for short periods of time each year. 

The importance of being honest with kids instead of dismissing questions to avoid delicate matters like racial inequality and the serious impact white writers have on BIPOC children was also discussed by the authors.

Some of the questions asked by the audience touched on topics concerning how to balance cultural authenticity so it doesn’t become tokenism, how BIPOC authors are trying to tell their stories while still appealing to a broad audience, and what kind of responsibly do the authors feel when they write books about a culture outside their own. 

While the official number of attendees was not shown, one of the moderators said there was a larger turn-out than she had expected.